Top-selling insurance agent opens her dream café | Inquirer Business

Top-selling insurance agent opens her dream café

SEMBRANO developed her spicy adobo ribs recipe by experimenting with and then perfecting a dish made by her mother-in-law’s cook. Photo by Ma. Esther Salcedo-Posadas

The serving of spicy adobo ribs was tender and succulent, with just the right amount of sweetness and a hint of red chili, enough to appease the spice-averse Filipino palate. Diners have complimented the chef on her delicious food and since they opened in March 2014, Concha’s Garden Café located in Silang, Cavite has been attracting new visitors.

“Right now, I’m panicking on how to accommodate all the walk-in guests.  We’re doing well beyond my original expectations,” says Gemma Escueta Sembrano who conceptualized the business idea.


She continues, “We are getting free advertisement through word of mouth.  And it’s a good sign for a business like this.”


She convinced her three friends—Lisa De Asis, Penny Ovejera and Gina Baldo—to invest in her restaurant. It has been her lifelong desire to open a café because of her love for baking and cooking. Sembrano is also fond of gardens and that is why they built the business inside Mother Earth Gardens owned by Lita Mascarinas. It is along the Sta. Rosa-Tagaytay Highway, right beside the Petron gas station.

Sembrano learned her cooking skills from her grandmother whose maiden surname was Concha. She is the seventh among eight siblings and she grew up with her grandmother in Biñan, Laguna.

She remembers watching her grandmother cook and going weekly to the market with her aunt. “Before I did not enjoy going to the market because of the smell. When I got married, I started to enjoy cooking,” she says.

Sembrano tied the knot when she was only 21 years old and has two teenage girls. According to her, she was then a stay-at-home mother who dabbled in small businesses like selling barbecue in front of their house, opening a cross-stitch store, starting a water station and others.

By 2009, she joined Manulife as a sales agent and after two years, became an agency leader or unit head. Currently, she handles seven agents.  Notwithstanding her current position, Sembrano is also a member of the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT) group within Manulife that includes the leading sales agents of the company.

“For me, I don’t want to rely on agent’s override. So I’m also a successful agent.” Sembrano explains that she continues to sell the products even if she is already in a supervisory role. On the other hand, her husband Joseph Raymond Sembrano serves as the branch head.


Together with the investments of her business partners, the restaurant is also the fruit of her earnings as well as the fulfillment of her dreams.  Sembrano takes a practical approach to the business and is directly involved in preparing dishes in the kitchen. Her business philosophy includes nurturing a relationship with her clients. “Later on, I will hire a manager. But the owner should still be present to maintain the personal touch,” she says.

Sembrano believes that “customers are always right” as she tries to promote a service-oriented environment in her restaurant. According to her, she has learned the importance of patience when dealing with clients because without them, there would be no sales.

Getting along with her employees is another important success factor as they often represent the ideals of the business. For first time entrepreneurs, she also gives an advice. “They should be passionate before putting up a business like this and they should be hands-on especially in the kitchen and in handling employees.”

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The garden café is open from 730 a.m. to 10 p.m. and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. For more details, contact 0917-8481120.

TAGS: Business, Cavite, entrepreneur, Restaurant

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